A boy in his late teens, with a lean frame, was busy consoling a group of women. With one hand he supported the head of one woman and with the other, he wiped her tears. Even though he was aware of the magnitude of the tragedy that had befallen the family, he was trying to be calm.
At the centre of a dimly lit room next to a busy lane lay a lifeless, motionless body covered in a white shroud, the body of a father, a son, a husband and the only breadwinner of the family who, less than eight hours ago, was killed by terrorists in south Kashmir. As soon as four people came to lift the body for a ritualistic bath, this young man, who till now was holding back his tears, couldn’t hold them any longer.
The scene in the household of Kashmir BJP leader and Tral municipal councillor Rakesh Pandita, who was gunned down by three terrorists in Kashmir valley on Thursday evening, were so heart wrenching that it made everybody cry.
A small house, an elderly grandmother, an ailing mother and a disabled uncle is all that the father of 17-year-old Paras Pandita left behind for him. Paras is well aware that after his father’s death, he will have to shoulder everyone’s responsibility.
Just 12 hours ago Paras would not have imagined in his worst of nightmares that he would have to light the pyre of his father as the two had spoken to each other barely ten minutes before the family got the news about his killing.
“Last night when we got a phone call from the police telling us that papa was killed by terrorists we all could not believe our ears as I had spoken to him only ten minutes ago, when he enquired about my studies”, Paras told News18.
Paras said that he would never understand why terrorists killed his father as he chose to work for the betterment of the entire area irrespective of caste or religion.
“I have just cremated my own father,” Paras said as he tried to hold back his tears. “I would never understand why the terrorists killed my father, an innocent man who was working for the welfare of the entire society.”
Paras said a dark future stares at him and he had no idea how he can manage to look after his family.
“The terrorists might be thinking that they killed just one man, but in reality, they have killed our entire family, they have killed the dreams of our family. My father always wanted me to study well and do good in life, but now the responsibility of the family has come on me and I don’t know how I would be able to sustain them” Paras said.
As it started getting dark, a handful of relatives and family friends who came to show their solidarity with the grieving family started leaving because of Covid restrictions. Paras stood at the doorstep to show his gratitude towards them. “Everybody would leave and it would be me and my family”, Paras said.
BJP leader Pandita’s neighbours called him a ‘jolly’ person who was ever ready to help people in need. “He had seen the pain of migration, he was in his youth when the community was forced to leave our homes and migrate to Jammu, so he worked really hard to fulfil his dream of an honourable return of the community back to our houses. He chose to contest the local body elections and even the members of the majority community voted for him and now he is gone, we can’t believe he is no longer amongst us”, Manoj Kumar a neighbour said.
Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said that at around 11:15 pm three unidentified terrorists fired indiscriminately Pandita who was visiting his friend at Tral Payeen.
“In this terror incident, Rakesh Pandita and daughter of his friend received serious gunshot injuries. Rakesh Pandita succumbed to his injuries while another injured person has been shifted to hospital for treatment of her injuries” Kumar said.
In a statement issued by Jammu and Kashmir police, it said that the deceased was a protected person and two personal security officers were deployed for his security and secured accommodation was also provided to him at Srinagar. However, at the time of the incident, he was without any security as he defied the SOPs and went to his native village without PSOs.
“Police has registered a case in this regard under relevant sections of law. The investigation is in progress and officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of this terror crime besides why he was without any security at the time of the incident. The area has been cordoned off and search in the area is going on to nab the terrorists involved in the attack”, the statement said.
Meanwhile, when asked what would he liked to convey to the terrorists who killed his father, Paras said that if he could, he would let them know that it was not just the murder of an individual, but the murder of an entire family.
“Though I would want them to be given strictest possible punishment, but I would want them to know that they did not just kill an individual but an entire family and the dreams of an entire family, I wonder what have they achieved from this” Paras said.